Eli Lilly Bets Big on Diabetes, Cancer Drugs

By Jennifer Booton Features FOXBusiness

Eli Lilly CEO talks M&A

Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter argues the company doesn't need to make bid deals to grow.

Eli Lilly (LLY) is betting new oncology and diabetes drugs will propel its top line over the next few decades.

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The drug giant’s chief executive, John Lechleiter, said in an exclusive interview with FOX Business’s Maria Bartiromo on Friday that the Indianapolis-based company hopes to bring a number of late-stage diabetes drugs to the market soon.

Earlier this week, Lilly presented a series of diabetes data, including from drug candidates like empagliflozin and dulaglutide, at the 74th American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions.

“Growth [over the next 5-10 years] is going to come from our diabetes business,” Lechleiter said on Opening Bell with Maria Bartiromo. “Type 2 diabetes unfortunately is a global epidemic.”

Cancer, immune deficiencies such as Lupus and Alzheimer's Disease are also expected to be main areas of focus for the drug behemoth in coming years.

Lilly said it was optimistic over the potential of its expanding oncology pipeline, as well as new autoimmune drugs currently in late-stage testing.

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Its Alzheimer’s antibody is currently in late-stage testing over whether it can slow down the progression of the disease, but results aren’t expected for at least another year.

Shares of Lilly were up 2.6% to $61.40 around noon ET on Friday, a new 10-year high. They have risen some 20% since the start of 2014.

Also during the interview, Lechleiter defended the company’s $5.4 billion purchase of Novartis’ animal health business, announced in April of this year, and said Lilly continues to believe it paid a “fair price.”

“We’ve been the fastest growing company in the [animal health space] for the last several years, but we really felt we needed to get to the top tier to compete globally,” he said. “I am very confident that this will prove to be a very good acquisition for our company.”

Lilly’s Elanco animal health business has historically comprised 5% to 6% of total sales, but Lechleiter says that number could be as high as 20% by the end of the decade. He also said the business doesn’t tend to suffer so-called patent cliffs that have weighed heavily on the pharma business as a whole.

As for the heating up M&A activity in health care – including the massive $118 billion bid by Pfizer (PFE) for AstraZeneca (AZN) – Lechleiter said the company is “not interested” in large-scale combinations, but would consider smaller, strategic deals.

“We would consider M&A if it helped strengthen our presence in a key area or our geographic presence,” he said. However, he says there is “no evidence that large-scale M&As have produced sustained value.”

Pfizer dropped its bid for AstraZeneca late in May after its sweetened offer was rebuffed by the British drug giant. 

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